While in Durham, North Carolina this week, President Barack Obama announced a new initiative to train more than 10,000 engineers. He explained that a strong economy depends heavily on innovation and manufacturing and that we need to increase our presence in these areas.
The President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, led by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and CEOs, met on Centennial Campus at Cree, Inc. to discuss these important employment issues. As Sen. Kay Hagan explained, the conference was put together to spotlight the state’s advanced edge in technology and engineering.
Chancellor Woodson said, “The job council is all about what we can do immediately to stimulate employment—to get more people back to work. The administration came here because they wanted to see the FREEDM Center, which is a center focused on power distribution, but there are a lot of small companies in the Triangle that are involved in this part of creation of new jobs.”
STEM is Where It’s At
Obama explained, while touring the technology company Cree, Inc. that the jobs of the future are part of STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. He said,
“These are the jobs that China and India are cranking out. Those students are hungry because they understand if they get those skills they can find a good job, they can create companies, they can create businesses, create wealth.”
Focusing In on Fields that Matter
Lawrence Jacobson, executive director of the National Society of Professional Engineers, agrees with Obama that we certainly need to focus on these fields more. As he said, “At the most fundamental level, we need a cultural shift. If we are going to compete, we are going to need to crank out better quality education. The rest of the world is at school 6 days a week. The heroes need to be STEM people, not people that get to dribble a basketball. We can’t assume that we are better than everyone else, because we’re not.”The American Society of Engineering Education explained, in a recent report, that, of the 41,000 masters degrees awarded in engineering in 2009, 44% of them were to foreign nationals. At MIT, for instance, 66% of the graduate student population is foreign. Certainly, all of these professionals agree, we need to work to bring more Americans to the field of engineering to strengthen our economy here.